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With biodiversity declining globally, certain species carrying deadly pathogens, such as bats and rats, are undergoing a population explosion. However, pandemic response remains focused on vaccine and drug development, rather than interventions against ecological disruptions. Meanwhile, over two-thirds of American adults recently interviewed by the American Psychological Association reported experiencing "eco-anxiety," with therapies emphasizing coping over collective action. Bringing attention to our more-than-human relations, this course investigates the links between environmental and human health crises. How do cultural values and economic calculations shape the prioritization of specific relations over others, and what are the resulting impacts?  We begin by examining diverse perspectives on disease transmission, interrogating medical and supernatural metaphors about bodies, boundaries, and pathologies. Next, we analyze climate change and systemic racism in relation to illnesses such as asthma and gastritis, considering how scholars in the medical and environmental humanities connect the inflammation of our arteries to that of our planet. For the research paper, students explore an aspect of public health in dialogue with environmental politics. Sample topics include the influence of commercial agriculture on bird flu experiments, the discursive strategies of the Extinction Rebellion movement, and the therapeutic use of hallucinogenic plants for depression.

(Course currently in development)

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Moving to Mars. Installing mirrors in space. Changing lightbulbs at home. What exactly will it take to effectively confront climate-related crises on Earth? Humans have always influenced their environments but the possibility of a “sixth extinction” is raising questions about the extent to which we can. Is it possible to avert mass-scale calamity? How might our thinking need to change in order to do so, and who might we become in the process? This course considers how we might transform how we inhabit Earth by exploring the diverse ways in which people have formed densities of more-than-human relationships to varied effect. As an introductory course to environmental anthropology, we will engage many topics, including (but not limited to): climate change, sustainability, toxic exposure-related illness, environmental justice, legal rights of nature, and repair and reparations. We begin by examining human evolution, analyzing intricate feedback loops involving belief, behavior, and biological systems. Next, we evaluate the cultural and economic values underpinning diagnoses and solutions for socioenvironmental problems by considering demands made by grassroots movements. Pushing against nature/culture and human/other binaries, we will, ultimately, re-imagine our place in planetary history.

(Taught at McGill University)

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